“Renaissance Man” Alan Cameron Roberts developed condos on Siesta Key
SARASOTA – On her first day of school at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, Laura Sarah Kay Garner looked up and saw her future husband, Alan Cameron Roberts.
“I took a look and said, ‘I love this guy,'” Roberts said of her late husband, 59, who died on March 7 at the age of 81. . “You just knew when you saw him across the room that he was genuine and fun and full of life.
“Just always with a joke, always with a helping hand,” she added. “He was just wonderful and it was from the first minute I saw him.”
She went on to marry the man known as “Boomer” to her friends – a nickname from his days as a high school quarterback and center ball player – and “Papa Bear” to her grandchildren.
But he was Laura Roberts’ “Renaissance Man” because he was always reinventing himself.
“We have had several lives as far as I’m concerned,” she says. “First it’s life in the military, then we moved to Sarasota shortly thereafter, then he became a real estate developer here in Sarasota – we did that for almost 15 or 20 years.
“And he decided he could write books so he wrote three books and all of them sold and are being published and (he) decided he had another dream – he wanted to make a movie,” Laura Roberts continued. “He wrote, produced and starred in a movie that was shot entirely here in Sarasota, with almost everyone in Sarasota, all in Florida of course, and sold it.
This movie, “Deadly Closure” premiered in 2010 at the Sarasota Film Fest.
“He just kept having new dreams all the time,” she said.
Roberts is survived by his wife, their two children, Wes Roberts and his wife Lisl Liang; daughter Laurie Roberts Porter and her husband Jonathan Porter, and three grandchildren, Griffin and Piper Roberts and Emmett Porter.
The family has already organized a small private reunion; a bigger celebration of life is planned for August 7 – the day after her birthday.
For Laura Roberts, it’s impossible to find singular highlights, because everything blends into happy memories.
“Our favorite thing when we were younger, under 65… we would take off and find out what was exciting, go meet people and ask questions about what we should see today.
“We loved traveling this way,” she added. “It was wonderful, we never worried about what was going on around the corner, we just kept going.”
If Alan Roberts’ accomplishments had been limited to his role as a real estate developer who built several iconic condominiums via Roberts Realty along the beaches of Siesta Key, including Crescent Royal and Sunset Royal across from Siesta Public Beach; Sunrise Cove on Turtle Beach; and Windward Passage on Big Pass – it would have left a great legacy in the Sarasota area.
But Roberts also used his good-natured skills as an auctioneer to raise funds for nonprofits in the area.
Laurie Roberts Porter’s earliest memories of her father involve standing next to him on stage at Blueberry Hill, the former nightclub above the Magic Moment on Siesta Key, as he hosted an auction for raise funds for the Safe Place and Rape Crisis Center.
“One of my earliest memories of him was standing on stage with him, trying to put my hands in his tuxedo pockets, trying to get as close to him as possible as he auctioned for SPARCC.” , Porter said.
Porter thought she was around 8 and said both parents gave their children an idyllic childhood while instilling in them the importance of interacting with the community.
“It was a perfect example of how he brought family into work and gave back to the community,” she added. “It’s crazy to think of instilling this in your kids at such a young age and making them understand how important it is.”
Porter noted that she and her husband Jonathan Porter, owner of Smog City Brewing in Torrance, Calif., Follow this philosophy by donating 1% of their gross sales to environmental causes.
“I think a lot of it comes from my mom and dad, their investment in the community and the importance of not just being in the community, but moving it forward and helping it,” said she declared. “It’s kind of like that, they have oscillated between being super philanthropic and organizational people to being amazing parents and spending a lot of time with us and taking long trips to Europe with us and trying to show us the world and the people. opportunities. “
Alan Roberts graduated from Trinity with a degree in house building and entered the military, where he served in the Quartermaster Corps and rose to the rank of first lieutenant.
After her service, the couple moved to Sarasota, where she worked as a teacher at Southeast High School, and Roberts, who sold homes while continuing her education, began working for Harlan Homes.
This is around the time that Roberts met his longtime friend Larry Smith and his wife, Edie.
That was 57 years ago, Smith said, and even then Roberts was “almost larger than life.”
Once about six months after they met, while working in a model home, a man stopped by and after looking at the model, opened the trunk of his car and asked them if they wanted to buy a new one. show.
Roberts did it better and took it home and traded crafts he and Laura made in Fort Rucker Alabama for 30 watches.
But Roberts brought these watches, which were new, in boxes with the price tags still attached, to Irving Spanierman at Sarasota Art Auction.
In the 1960s, art auctions were part auction and part entertainment. Alan and Laura Roberts had already frequented it for entertainment.
“By the time they finished the conversation, Spanierman hired him to work the soil for him,” Smith said. “Alan also had a great booming voice.”
Spanierman became like a second father to Roberts and the family grew closer. Over the summers, they traveled to North Carolina, where Spanierman had other galleries and Laura Roberts took inventory of the assets.
Eventually, Alan and Laura Roberts got into the development of condominiums. At the time, the concept was so new that a statue on Alan’s desk spelled out “Con-Do-Min-E-Um” to instruct customers how to pronounce the word.
“What set him apart from any other builder I knew was that he designed his own buildings; he didn’t have an architect, ”Smith said.
Instead, Roberts designed his own structures and had the blueprints executed by engineers for approval.
“He was 20-30% ahead of any other builder who paid an architect to design the building,” Smith said. “He saved wherever he could.
“It contributed to his success.”
Roberts even started his own furniture business to buy wholesale model unit furniture and then offered people who wanted to buy the furniture the same wholesale price.
It also fostered a lasting image of him driving one of his two 1976 Cadillac Eldorado convertibles – he had a red and a white – around town, up and down, pulling a trailer full of furniture, building materials. or ornamental plants.
His son Wes Roberts, executive editor of SRQ magazine likes to share this story, and when his oldest, Griffin, 10, was asked about “Papa Bear,” he remembered the same story.
As a businessman, Smith said, Roberts was the most straight shooter he had ever met.
Roberts Realty worked exclusively with Rowe-Mitchell Construction.
Bobby Mitchell, who now runs the company, was 6 when the company started working with Roberts.
“Alan Roberts and my family’s company have probably had the most reliable mutual business deal between a developer and a contractor in town,” Mitchell said. “It would be now and forever.”
“She was a fantastic person to be a friend of and do business with,” he added. “We just had a deep friendship with these people who carried on the business of the past and that’s rare.”
Roberts built a few projects afterwards; perhaps the crowning achievement was Windward Passage, which targeted luxury buyers, with Jacuzzi tubs and an asking price of $ 1 million on penthouse units.
But he was also fed up with the growing bureaucracy that accompanied the changing development process in Sarasota and elsewhere in Florida.
“It was from another time, to be fair, where you could get a loan from a bank for a ridiculous amount of money on a handshake and go down and talk to the people of the city government and get a feel for it. and shake on it. “Said Wes Roberts.” It was a time when people’s words and handshakes, good intentions were paramount and he didn’t adapt well to a world of filling out forms and documents. – he was very unhappy in this world. “
Roberts’ philanthropic efforts have proven to be a welcome distraction. A board member of the Players Center for Performing Arts, he befriended various local writers, including Peter King, author of the Gourmet Detective series, as well as Stuart Kaminsky and Wayne Barcomb, both novelists. since-deceased police officers who have made Sarasota their home. .
The stories Alan Roberts loved to tell in his youth were about his time as a young entrepreneur – the 5-year-old who traded in a Matchbox car for a larger, handmade toy car, which to him was a big upgrade and was warranted when his parents told the other boy’s parents who stopped by to complain, “Once you make a deal you respect it.” “
“It got imprinted on him, you could do business and still look for an opportunity,” Wes Roberts said, then explained how his dad as a college kid bought and sold two cars at a profit, even he was not old enough. to drive.
In the days following his father’s death, Wes Roberts said he had some ideas.
“One of my revelations about my dad, I always thought he had motivation,” Roberts said. “Now I realize it wasn’t driving, it was optimism.
“He had unbridled and uninhibited optimism that the next moment was going to be better,” he continued. “It never occurred to him that it couldn’t be.”
Earle Kimel primarily covers southern Sarasota County for the Herald-Tribune and can be contacted at [email protected] Access everything the Herald-Tribune has to offer for just $ 39 for one year. Special introductory offer reserved for new subscribers. http://bit.ly/3vvdsQz